Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson made history in 2015. In 19 gruelling days, the pair free-climbed the Dawn Wall on Yosemite National Park’s staggeringly enormous El Capitan for the first time. They spent those days inching their way up 915m of vertical granite; they spent the nights sleeping suspended far above the ground on tiny, portable platforms.
Portaledges are pretty simple bits of kit. Essentially hanging cots, they measure 2m by 1m and are designed to hang suspended from a cliff face, creating a portable sleeping platform. They’re relatively new on the climbing scene – back in the Seventies, the gnarly climbers who flocked to Yosemite would use metal beds they had liberated from the park’s campsites to rig up homemade versions (if that sounds scary, prior to this most people attempting multi-day climbs just used hammocks). Things have vastly improved since then, and modern big wall climbers take light, portable and sturdy ’ledges, allowing them to stay at altitude for days or weeks at a time.